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1. Marvel’s Tom Brevoort on the diminishing returns of relaunches

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Brief and to the point — over on his Formspring Tom Brevoort
was asked about Marvel’s continued hammer-blows of relaunches,

Do you think the frequent relaunches will eventually lose their sales-boosting effect?
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Maybe. Many other things have over the years.


..and that’s where the creativity of comics comes in, I guess.

Rich has a briefer version of our continued sales charts that puts this in some perspective BTW.

15 Comments on Marvel’s Tom Brevoort on the diminishing returns of relaunches, last added: 4/16/2014
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2. Indie Bookstores are survivors, just like comics shops

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Speaking of Amazology, Lauren Davis at io9 got right to the darkest conspiracy theories of all with a post titledWill Amazon Do To Comic Shops What It Did To Book Stores? Amazon is generally considered to employ a Genghis Khan like strategy in seeking to wipe bookstores off the face of the earth, however, even the comments on the above piece point out that Amazon has been more toxic to the chain bookstores than indie shops. In fact, a piece from last fall pointed out, Amazon Slayed a Negative 77 Indie Bookstores in 2012, accompanied by the above chart, showed that indie bookstores are hanging in there.

While the New York Times has been announcing the end of Manhattan as a paradise for bookstores—and painful closures like Rizzoli Books, Shakespeare & Co. and St Marks Books have left great sucking chest wounds for Manhattan booklovers—luckily indie bookstores are slinging to life in the wake of insanely surging rents. :

But alarmist rhetoric aside, it was a familiar tale: Not about the end of reading, but about New York real estate — inexorably rising rents and the few businesses that can afford them. It’s a challenging landscape for anybody, but probably especially challenging for bookstores after all. The same Department of Labor database the Times cited, showing a nearly 30 percent decline in Manhattan bookstores between 2000 and 2012, also found Brooklyn actually gaining a bookstore (from 50 to 51) in the same period. Look closely at a few of those — as well as Manhattan’s hardiest survivors — and the city’s Darwinian, post-Bloomberg ecosystem begins to look less like a literary desert than a harsh but productive driver of bookstore evolution. Here’s how a few of the success stories have managed.

Getting back to Davis’s original question about Amazon and comics shops, the survival—best sales EVER for some— for local comics shops has to be seen as part of the pattern of the indie bookstore revival. As I’ve said many, many times, if you offered the publisher of any kind of book genre a dedicated network of 2000 stores all tirelessly devoted to selling your product — they would leap at the chance. The above profile of local NYC indie bookstores didn’t include a single comics shop, which is a little surprising to me—although five of the six have held graphic novel events. Maybe it’s time for some general rebranding here?As for the survival of comics shops, specifically, Davis write:

But as with prose books, not everyone is going to want to make the switch from paper to digital. Some people simply prefer the experience of reading on paper, and many folks collect single issues of comics—although it will be interesting to see if the latter changes with the rise of digital comics. And there’s a social aspect to comic book stores that is distinct from what you see in a bookstore. The weekly ritual of going to the shop on Wednesdays to discuss the latest issue with your fellow readers won’t be replicated by the mere availability of digital comics. Still, it will be interesting to see what Amazon plans to do in the digital comics space and how retailers feel about the purchase.

Although Comixology’s retailer services—including pull lists and digital storefronts—will remain in place, at least one retailer, The Golden Apple’s Ryan Leibowitz, sees an Amazon-driven Comixology as MORE useful:

The fact is, Amazon is more retailer friendly (sort of). What I mean is that their whole platform is based on businesses and individuals to have hosted webstores that they take a cut from. We already have an Amazon Webstore and my hope is that they integrate our Comixology Digital store to it. And unlike Comixology, We keep the purchased amount from the customer (minus the Amazon fee) not the other way around like Comixology does currently.

Also, comic books are not like CDs and/or regular prose books, they are collectible. What I mean is that they have value and are meant to be collected, cherished and enjoyed for generations. i don’t see comic shops falling over like bookstores without a geek fight…with lightsabers!

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Above, the Golden Apple in Los Angeles, CA, via FB

8 Comments on Indie Bookstores are survivors, just like comics shops, last added: 4/15/2014
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3. Retailers can unlock The Woods secret cover

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We’ve been having a lot of coverage of Booms! Lumberjanes this week, but the next hot book from Boom is likely to be The Woods by writer James Tynion IV (Batman Eternal, Red Hood and the Outlaws) and artist Michael Dialynas (Amala’s Blade, Spera). The issue goes on sale on May 7, but before that retailers have been offered an an “unlockable” variant cover by Joe Eisma (Morning Glories). Retailers can order this cover in any ammount as long as they increase their orders on issue #1 by 20%.

As for The Woods itself, it sounds reminiscent of such classics as Drifting Classroom and Battle Royale:

In THE WOODS, an entire high school campus with over 500 students, teachers, and staff suddenly vanishes and reappears in the middle of an alien-looking wilderness next to a towering, mysterious obelisk. Left to fend for themselves in a hostile environment, the group tries to find out where they are, why they’re there, and how to get back home.

As a bonus here are the other variant covers for the issue

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Cover A by Ramón Pérez

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Cover B by Matthew Woodson (1 in 10 intermix)

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Cover C by Paul Duffield (1 in 25 retailer incentive)

3 Comments on Retailers can unlock The Woods secret cover, last added: 4/12/2014
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4. Will Comixology go the way of Audible or Zappos?

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The great digital hope has been acquired by one of the giant fire breathing kaiju of the digital era. Will they trample tiny cottages beneath their feet or become a lovable behemoth? Ask me in a year. In the meantime…

First off, will you be able to read your comics? A story at the Guardian indicates yes…but…

The firm also sought to reassure users that their comic collections, some of which are in the thousands of dollars, were safe after the acquisition. “Of course [they are safe]! Our goal is to build on each other’s strengths and create the best service for all comic and graphic novel customers.” But it declined comment on whether it would “guarantee” that customers would always be able to read the comics they had purchased.


No guarantees. That is pretty much standard with any digital media. Folks have pointed to Jmanga’s collapse for a model of how you can lose your collection from something that seemed solid. Of course, in the short term, Amazon and Comixology will keep you reading all your comics. Even the most gloomy analysis—Amazon acquired a competitor to wipe them out—suggest that where there’s smoke there’s money. Digital comics are obviously a growth product of the future and Amazon will want to keep and grow that business, even if it is just to move Comixology to their Kindle storefront.While we can only speculate at this point, it’s worth noting that among the dozens of companies Amazon has acquired there are many different models for how that development evolves. For instance, in 2005 Amazon bought POD company Booksurge, eventually turning it into Createspace, now an Amazon-like portal for uploading and selling your books via Amazon, Kindle and other Amazon services.

Audible is company selling audio books that may offer a very direct comparison to Comixology. The Audible store is still a standalone, but with a Amazon branding. And to buy books you need to sign in with your Amazon account, something that we imagine could happen very quickly with Comixology. Books sold on Audible are subject to Amazon’s customer ratings and everything else you get on the main Amazon site. So really, Audible is a dedicated webstore for audiobooks just in case you are easily confused by going to Amazon and being bothered by those print things.

On the other hand, there’s Zappos, the world’s biggest shoe store. As a woman, I love shoes, and I have to confess I had no idea that Zappos was owned by Amazon and I have purchased shoes through both! They offer different brands, different pricing and a different user experience.

Zappos also retains its own fairly unique corporate culture, as this story indicates.

During the 4-hour meeting, Hsieh talked about how Zappos’ traditional organizational structure is being replaced with Holacracy, a radical “self-governing” operating system where there are no job titles and no managers. The term Holacracy is derived from the Greek word holon, which means a whole that’s part of a greater whole. Instead of a top-down hierarchy, there’s a flatter “holarchy” that distributes power more evenly. The company will be made up of different circles—there will be around 400 circles at Zappos once the rollout is complete in December 2014—and employees can have any number of roles within those circles. This way, there’s no hiding under titles; radical transparency is the goal.


While it’s clear that Amazon offers different levels of autonomy for its company, it’s also true that comics are more like books than shoes, and the ebook business is one that Amazon is already very active in with its game changing Kindle business.

A frequently brought up question in my emails and DMs was how Amazon and Apple will play together. These two get along in a more Godzilla vs Mecha Godzilla way, so don’t expect loving cooperation. For instance, you can’t actually buy anything through the iOS Kindle app, unlike Comixology’s where you can spend away. As the Register put it, “Amazon therefore just acquired itself an app that lets it do things Apple doesn’t like it to do.”

UPDATE: as mentioned in the comments, I had this exactly backwards. It’s Amazon who refuses to pay Apple’s share of the costs, so will you see them ditch in-app purchases to spite Apple? Comixology was the top grossing non-game app on the iPad in 2013 and #11 overall,which must have meant significant profit. Would Apple Amazon cut off its nose to spite its face?

Yes. Oh yes.

At the Big Five (Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook) level it’s all a pissing contest. And Amazon does NOT play nicey nicey.

Of course, there is the brick and mortar aspect to the story. While ComicsPRO just released a fairly defensive statement, at least one retailer was glad he never signed up with CX’s retailer service:


As you may recall, when Comixology first got on the scene they smartly made peace with retailers by offering a bunch of services for stores, such as digitized pull lists. They also offered a digital storefront that some stores used, a model that found much more success than Diamond’s attempt at the same. Some retailers were always wary of the system however, and now it looks like they may have been the wise ones after all.

Winners in all of this may be digital alternatives. iVerse is still around, with some unique services, including its potentially large library lending system. Sequential is an indie-focused stand alone app that just signed up Top Shelf, NBM and Fantagraphics. Image and 2000AD have held on to their own drm-free download sales. And of course Dark Horse has its own digital store.

That said, there’s no questions but that Comixology was the leader in this space, with its sales dwarfing other digital vendors’. And of course, everybody was already selling through Amazon, whether it was actual books, or Kindle editions. Tieing in Amazon’s formidable user reviews and related material makes discoverability much easier for comics, one area where Comixology had a ways to go.

And what about Submit? While it’s been specifically mentioned that this service will continue—users upload their own content and sell them via Comixology splitting the revenue. This is a lot like what many of Amazon’s services are already like, including the Kindle Direct Publishing portal. HOWEVER, Kindle charges a “digital delivery” fee by the MB of upload, as Todd Allen explored in this 2011 piece. This adds up to significant costs. Moving to a KDP model from the Submit one would be pretty onerous for indie comics creators. On the other hands, maybe it wasn’t a big cash cow to begin with, as this post from Ryan Estrada shows.

With Submit submissions already backed up for six months, this never really caught fire, I think, and most creators have been moving to Gumroad, Sellify or their own Paypal storefronts. DIY and the maker ethic are going strong in indie comics.

Then there’s the whole Guided View trademark matter…something I’ll need a whole other post to get into.

Finally, how much did Amazon pay for Comixology? We may never know but history offers guides. The terms of the Booksurge acquisition were never disclosed. Amazon purchased Woot!, a daily deal’s type tech store for $110 million in cash. Audible sold for $300 million and Zappos for $940 million. I guess people like shoes more than books.

13 Comments on Will Comixology go the way of Audible or Zappos?, last added: 4/13/2014
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5. ComicsPRO responds to Comixology/Amazon deal

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With all kinds of concerns running rampant today about what Amazon’s acquisition of Comixology means for the comics industry, ComicsPRO, the retailers organization, has released a statement:

“There’s always a concern when a huge corporation that shows little need to turn a profit tries to convert a niche market into a commodity. Fortunately there is a tactile element to comics that no deep-discounting web entity will ever be able to replicate. So as long as there continues to be fans for the real thing, there will be comics and comic book stores.”


Developing.

15 Comments on ComicsPRO responds to Comixology/Amazon deal, last added: 4/12/2014
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6. What are the real secrets of Marvel’s Original Sin?

Despite my previous move towards being chipper, there are still some distress signals out there. Marvel’s full court press on their next event, Original Sin, has been relentless. Maybe a little too relentless. After promising “unprecedented marketing support,” inclduing the eyeball giveaway, I notice they pushed the FOC forward a day, and released the first two issues to retailers, even knowing they would sure to be leaked to Bleeding Cool. I asked a retailer pal of mine about this and he said that pull lists for OS had been moderate at best—still my retailer pals tend to be the kind who aren’t just Big Two stores, so you can’t really go by this.

The idea sounds intriguing enough—who doesn’t like a murder mystery and eyeballs and stuff. But the “Wikileaks of the Marvel U” element has yet to be played out. I’m going to post all the promo material thus far and then MY own comments.Everybody_Has_One.jpg

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Sorry but walking away from a cloud is not shocking! I suspect Marvel will play up the Wikileaks shocking scandal more once the consumers enter the equation, but really the possibilities are endless. It’s a tabloid world after all.

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12 Comments on What are the real secrets of Marvel’s Original Sin?, last added: 4/10/2014
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7. New Comic Shop Day: Thirty-Eight Year Old Comics Shop Reopens One Month After Devastating Fire

As we reported a month ago, the Dragon’s Lair in Omaha, Nebraska, had occupied the same building since 1976, until a recent fire elsewhere in the building caused extensive smoke and water damage to the store.

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Main stock bins installed March 12.

Since then, the store has relocated five blocks west, to 2227 N. 91st Plaza on Blondo, and will reopen today at 9 AM.  (It’s located behind Romeo’s Mexican Food & Pizza which has been in business as long, if not longer, than The Dragon’s Lair, so the food must be good.  (I grew up in that neighborhood, and I can’t remember it NOT being there.))

Owner Bob Gellner will open the new location today, with a sale and a drawing for two $50 gift certificates.

The Dragon’s Lair isn’t a fancy shop like Bergen Street, or a mancave like the Android’s Dungeon.

What it is is a comics shop also selling cards and games, staffed by people who are welcoming, even if you only visit them once or twice a year from out of town.  Most of his staff have been there a long time (Craig Patterson, the manager of their Millard location, was working at the Blondo store back in the 80s when I started shopping there), and some of their customers and employees have gone on to start their own stores in the metro area.  (One customer even became a best-selling graphic novelist!)

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First printing!
Cover price!

From January 1985 until January 1994, Dragon’s Lair was my local comics shop.  It’s where I fed my inner Marvel Zombie, and, a few years later, starved it to death as I discovered a multitude of other titles I had to read more than X-Men, Spider-Man, or She-Hulk.  It’s where I discovered Tales of the Beanworld, Neil the Horse, Bone, Sandman, Concrete, Justice League International, Uncle Scrooge; and ignored hundreds of other small press titles, which I can only guess at now, as I peruse old preview copies of Amazing Heroes.

It’s where I bought my weekly copy of the Comics Buyer’s Guide, and the occasional copy of the Comics Journal.

It’s where I found cheap copies of Marvel Tales and Not Brand Echh and MAD Magazine in the back issue bins.

It’s where I spent the first ten years collecting comics, and I’m lucky it was my local comics shop.  Omaha is lucky that it was the local comics shop in the 80s.  They are the reason my passion for comics is so eclectic, and why Omaha has such a strong geek community now.

If you live in the Omaha metro area, heck, if you live in eastern Nebraska or western Iowa, stop by!  (You should probably visit some of the other great shops in the city as well.  Omaha is a nerd oasis.)  It’s a quintessential Midwestern store, not unlike the dry goods variety stores once common on Main Street USA.  Low key, offering great selection and service, run by nice people.  I’ll be stopping by the next time I’m visiting family, and until then, I wish them a grand reopening!

3 Comments on New Comic Shop Day: Thirty-Eight Year Old Comics Shop Reopens One Month After Devastating Fire, last added: 3/26/2014
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8. The state of comics retailing — and what it says about the Big Two

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There’s a big survey of retailers about current comics sales trends, ably put together by Shannon O’Leary up at Publishers Weekly today, called Despite Early Sales Slump, Comics Retailers Remain Upbeat. If you are not a PW subscriber you won’t be able to read it for a few weeks — I’ll link to it again when it goes live. To say it is an interesting piece is an understatement, as it suggests a real change in DM sales patterns, due to all the factors of modernization and digital and what not. Here’s the nut graph:

Most of the retailers we spoke with also reported that they’re seeing customers shifting their dollars away from lower-tier Marvel and DC books to Image and other publishers. “A lot of Marvel and DC titles are really at the bottom end, but Boom!, Image, and IDW have more titles that are more competitive with the top tier Marvel and DC,” says Carr D’Angelo. “We’re still selling a lot of comics because the money pool is the same, but maybe [customers are] taking a look and thinking, I don’t really need this C Level title but gosh, Sex Criminals looks awesome and I’m going to buy that instead.” Many other stores did, indeed, report that IDW’s Locke and Key is still a consistent big seller and Boom!’s Adventure Time, graphic novel trade book collections of the hit animated kids’ series, remains high on their sales charts.


So yeah. A new generation of readers, raised with a more eclectic marketplace, including graphic novels, and filmed entertainment starring Hellboy and The Walking Dead, aren’t an automatic gimme for Marvel or DC, but they do support their local comics shops. Anyway much more of interest in the piece—I look forward to more debate when it goes out to non subscribers.

This is as good a place as any to link to two pieces that seem to me to sum up the state of Marvel and DC as much as anything. I ran the solicitations last week as much as a chance for myself to pay attention to what Marvel and DC are doing as anything else, and what I saw didn’t inspire a mountain of confidence. Marvel’s flogging every horse over the finish line with a dizzying array of #1s and adjective from all new, now, ultimate, uncanny, amazing, and anything else. I have no idea how the editors keep track of this, let alone readers. All Uncanny Avengers and Amazing X-Men did was dilute long standing brands. At the same time, this chaos has led to the chance to take some creative risks and try new approaches, most notably with the New Ms. Marvel, whose second issue numbers will be as closely watched as what kind of meat they’re serving on those plates in Terminus on The Walking Dead.

Speaking of Ms Marvel, however, here’s an interview with writer G. Willow Wilson at Vulture, a general interest pop culture blog.

Kamala’s an avid fan-fiction writer. Why did you put that into the story?

Being a Muslim in America, I’ve noticed that there’s a ton of crossover between the Muslim community and geekdom. Part of that is outsider culture: When you’re growing up as a minority and you feel somewhat alienated from the mainstream, you’re going to seek out other people who feel that way. That’s what geek culture is traditionally about.

And also, I wanted her to be fleshed out and have a real personality, rather than being a model minority. Plus, if you lived in a world where there were actual superheroes? Especially in a place like Jersey City, where you’d literally probably see Daredevil in the streets or Thor flying overhead or whatever. It made sense to me, in that situation, that Kamala would grow up looking up to these actual real-world superheroes and becoming a fan-fic writer.


A few weeks ago, I myself did a q&a with Wilson before an eager SRO audience at the Word bookstore in Jersey City. Granted that it was a home town appearance—Kamala Khan is also from Jersey City—but maybe that’s the point. In a world of diversity, Ms. Marvel connects on a personal level with teenagers who live in the real world—and Kamala’s life just across the river from the exciting world of superheroes is a nice extension of a real world emotion into superhero terms. Ms. Marvel may be the flavor of the month or a game changer…we’ll see.

Meanwhile, at DC…man I hate writing about DC because it is of so little interest to me. I wish there were more cool things for me to write about DC, but their mainstream books have settled into an era of homogenized, house-look, continuity-crisis driven mush.

J. Caleb Mozzocco had a piece at Robot 6 last week called Whither Pandora? (Other than in ‘Trinity of Sin: Pandora’) that seemed to sum up much of the problem. Pandora was the mysterious figure behind the entire New 52 continuity reboot, but her story seems to have drifted away over the last three years

This lady was obviously important, and her story would be central to the understanding the new status quo of the DC Universe, right?

Unfortunately, DC has yet to follow up on the mysterious, in-story reasoning for the biggest change to its fictional setting and superhero line since Crisis on Infinite Earths (if not longer), and nothing underscores and emphasizes the publisher’s rather perplexing decision to build up the character and her conflicts and then ignore them like a reading of Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1: The Curse, the new trade collection of the first five issues of the series, plus the aforementioned FCBD title.


Both Marvel and DC are scrambling to keep their audiences, using everything that worked in the past—Five Years Later is a reboot of One Year Later from 2006—but the evolving demographics of comics readers and the steady drumbeat of competition from other media makes figuring out how anything will work ever more difficult.

16 Comments on The state of comics retailing — and what it says about the Big Two, last added: 3/24/2014
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9. Celebrate Hellboy Day with Comics or…chocolate

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March 22, 1994 was the debut of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1, the first appearance of Mike Mignola’s now-iconic character. There have been special things going on all over as detailed by Dark Horse Comics, today there are giveaways and brimstone and kittens and stuff. Find participating retailers in the link above.

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I have to say as much as I love Hellboy is is these chocolates that most excited me. Dark Horse really knows how to run a merchandise line!

In addition to a slew of exclusive giveaways, Dark Horse has produced an all-new sampler comic featuring two classic Mignola tales, “The Ghoul” and “Another Day at the Office,” as well as two new stories by Mignola, Fábio Moon, and R. Sikoryak!

Additionally, as part of this special promotion, participating retailers were entered to win an original piece of art from Mike Mignola. This special honor goes to Hot Comics and Collectibles in New Hope, Minnesota!

Look for the Hellboy: The First 20 Years hardcover collection, on sale in comic shops everywhere on March 19! This deluxe oversized hardcover presents Mignola’s favorite covers and illustrations in gallery style, from his first drawing of Hellboy through twenty years of publishing.

Dark Horse Digital has Hellboy Day offerings as well, with the Hellboy MegaBundle Sale and the Mike Mignola Sale!

4 Comments on Celebrate Hellboy Day with Comics or…chocolate, last added: 3/24/2014
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10. Comics retailers forming a new group called COBRA

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Dennis Barger Jr. of Wonderworld Comics in Detroit is known as one of the more…idiosyncratic comics retailers out there. He’s still resolutely anti-digital for instance, and holds many other opinions hat a lot of people disagree with. On his FB page he recently mentioned that he and some other retailers were planning their own retailing group, working name COBRA (Comic Book Retailer Alliance.)

My frustration with much of what is going on in comics has at least in a large part been set in motion for a reversal. When the Beatles wrote “I get by with a little help from my friends” they had no idea the level of people that would one day join forces like a modern day superhero team to form a comic book organization like no other. This group of retailers are unsurpassed in their knowledge of the industry, fortitude of character and strength of their voices. It is my pleasure and honor to team up with Randy Myers, Dominic Postiglione, Larry’s Comics, Jetpack Comics, Jesse James, Chandler Rice, Aaron Haaland and Richard Nelson to start the Comic Book Retailer Alliance. An advocacy group for the protection of the local comic shop (lcs) and the for a future in print comics for all creators. Way more information to come.


In a later post, it was suggested that more would be discussed at Diamond Retailer summit in Las Vegas in May.

As I’ve mentioned before, there have been many comic book store organizations, few of which stuck until ComicsPRO came along. In fact, I seem to recall that there was one called CBRI that some folks called “COBRA”. But there was also PACER, and BACR, and CBIA and ERCBRA and…more. I’m sure. (Google reveals little of these things.) To be a comic book retailer you must be a rugged individualist and that doesn’t always make organizing easy.

This COBRA group includes many of the “Phantom Variant” group, retailers who banded together to crate their own variant covers as a response to the shadowy “Ghost Variants” produced by a separate exclusive group of retailers…did I mention that retailers are rugged individualists?

Anyway, I asked Barger a bit more about this. While some framed this as a move against ComicsPRO—and Barger admits he and that organization don’t see eye to eye on many things—he said that perception was inaccurate. I asked him about individual issues that he felt were important to address: “Digital, actual sell through figures not just what Diamond sold us figures, stocking our stores collectively through outside channels and a few others that we have to flush out a bit more.”

Of course when he mentioned sell through, my ears perked up. Those numbers would be so, so interesting. Barger has a lot of other views on what he sees as a negative trend right now—although he also announced plans to move to a new bigger location, too so things can’t be that horrible.

Fellow proto-COBRA member Jesse James also put a statement on FB:

I would like to state that I joined COBRA to help make this industry stronger with another voice for the Publishers and Distributors to listen to. Though a media release has come out that the group is a defiance to Comicspro or opposition to that organization is far from the truth. Comicspro and its members have achieved much in its years of servitude to the industry. With their past convention in Atlanta, they continue to show their commitment to make this industry better. I look forward in working with the members of COBRA and my continued friendship with many members of Comicspro.


Not sure that was the proper use of “servitude” but ANYWAY.

ComicsPRO is better established than any other industry organization at this point. At last weekend’s annual meeting, participating entities included ctionLab Comics, Anomaly, Archie Comics, Ataboy, BCW, Black Mask Studios, Boom, CGC, Collection Drawer, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Dark Horse, DC, Diamond, Dynamite, First Second Books, Graphitti Designs, GTS Distribution, IDW, Image, Marvel, NBM/Papercutz, ONI Press, ReedPop, Titan,Top Shelf, Valiant, Viz and Zenescope—a pretty strong cross section of the industry and one that seems to be working together on many issues collectively.

That isn’t to say there isn’t room for another group with different aims, however. More to come, as usual.

6 Comments on Comics retailers forming a new group called COBRA, last added: 3/8/2014
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11. ComicsPRO 2014: Eric Stephenson and Julius Schwartz win Industry Appreciation Awards

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The 2014 ComicsPRO meeting wrapped up on Saturday and retailer/reporter Matt Price has, as always, a fine recap of what went on. Among the doings, Image publisher ERic Stephenson won the Industry Appreciation Award, which is a leetle ironic since most of the industry definitely DID NOT appreciate much of what he said in his speech . But he’s a mover and a shaker and sometimes you can’t move things without shaking them up. Julius Schwartz won the memorial appreciation award, given for “indelible mark on the profession of comic book specialty retailing.”

In a statement Stephenson said “I’m honored to be the recipient of this year’s Industry Appreciation Award,” said Stephenson. “The retailers who make up ComicsPRO are among the industry’s very best and I think they do some very important work on behalf of comics and the Direct Market, so as awards go, I think it’s really cool.
 
“I also think that even though it’s my name on the award, it’s actually more of a testament to how far Image has come over the last few years, and that couldn’t have happened without the hard work and dedication of all the talented men and women at Image Comics. Jessica Ambriz, Emilio Bautista, Branwyn Bigglestone, David Brothers, Jonathan Chan, Jennifer de Guzman, Addison Duke, Monica Garcia, Drew Gill, Emily Miller, Patricia Ramos, Ron Richards, Kat Salazar, Jenna Savage, Tyler Shainline, Jeremy Sullivan, and Meredith Wallace don’t get enough credit for the incredible support they provide to all the creators Image works with, but I absolutely would not be able to do what I do without them.”

Reading Price’s report, this sounds like a strong meeting, with publishers like Papercutz and First Second showcasing work that is far outside the superhero mindset. Synamite, IDW and Dark Horse also announced projects like a 20th anniversary Hellboy initiative, IDW’s “Super Secret Crisis War!” cartoon crossover and Dynamite’s Queen Blood book. Diversity continues.

Photo by Matt Price.

0 Comments on ComicsPRO 2014: Eric Stephenson and Julius Schwartz win Industry Appreciation Awards as of 3/3/2014 5:06:00 PM
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12. ComicsPRO: Image’s Eric Stephenson addresses retailers “I want to make your stores stronger”

SAGA #14 cover art by Fiona Staples

SAGA #14 cover art by Fiona Staples

Image Publisher Eric Stephenson delivered a speech to retailers this morning and here’s the text, courtesy of Image comics:


I hope you don’t mind if I deviate from standard practice, but instead of talking about Image Comics this morning, I’d like to talk about you.

This is my fourth year at ComicsPRO, and one of the reasons I keep coming back is because I feel like the retailers who make up this organization have a genuine interest in improving this industry.

We get a lot of great feedback at this event, and I think you only have to look at the many changes Image has made over the last few years to see that it’s feedback we take to heart.

More than any other industry gathering, I feel like a lot of important work gets done here, and I’m proud to be involved in that process.

You talk, we listen, and I think that ongoing dialogue between publishers and retailers is one of the things that make the Direct Market so unique.

Simply put: You care.

As a result, while other stores – other comic book stores, mass-market bookstores, entire chains – have disappeared from the retail landscape, you’re still here, and in many cases, you’re stronger than ever.

Sales will always fluctuate, but given that print was being pronounced dead as early as 20 years ago, the comics market has remained remarkably stable.

It’s funny, when I first started working at Image back in 2001, the bookstore market was just beginning to take comics and graphic novels seriously. Some predicted this would have an adverse effect on the direct market, but you’re still here.

Not too long after that, when digital comics emerged as an alternative to print, there were even more gloomy predictions, but still, the Direct Market survived.

And the Direct Market will continue to survive, as long as there are people like you.

Every publisher here talks to your counterparts in the bookstore market, and do you know what they’re telling us?

They’re telling us graphic novels are one of the only categories of print publishing that is growing.

That’s something you should be proud of, because while a growing graphic novel section in your local Barnes & Noble might not seem like something you should be happy about, you can rest assured that even the largest of those graphic novel sections is smaller than your own.

Even though, on the surface, it may seem discouraging that sales for graphic novels are soaring on Amazon, what that really means is that the audience for comics is continuing to grow.

And it’s our job – yours, mine, all of ours – to figure out how to reach that growing audience and drive them to the Direct Market, because as bookstores continue to close and chains continue to disappear, the best place to get comics in the future will continue to be the best place to get comics now:

Your stores.

And I want to make your stores stronger.

Now, you probably already know this about me, but I’m not particularly content with the status quo.

We know what this business was like in the past, and it’s plain enough to see how it is now.

What we should be focusing on is the future.

We should all be challenging ourselves to make things better, and I want to challenge us all to build a better industry.

One of the first things we need to do is stop looking at the comics market as the “big two” or the “big three.”

There are only two kinds of comics that matter: good comics and bad comics.

Everything else should be irrelevant.

So stop letting publishers lie to you and deceive you and your readers so they can prop up their position in this industry in their craven attempts to appease shareholders.

That may help them in the short-term, and maybe it puts an extra couple coins in your change purse at the end of the week, but the reality of the situation is they have literally everything BUT your best interests at heart.

It starts with bi-weekly and weekly shipping and it extends into pricing.

Are $4.99 and $7.99 comics going to help our industry in the long run?

No, but they sure help the bottom line at the end of the year.

Same with gimmick covers and insane incentives to qualify for variants that will only have a limited appeal for a limited amount of time.

Everybody moans about variants, but here’s the honest to goodness truth:

You stop ordering variants; we’ll stop making them.

They are only produced to shore up market share, that’s it and that’s all, and when used in conjunction with quantity-based incentives, they don’t sell more comics, they just result in stacks of unsold books that send the wrong message to your customers about the titles, your stores, and our industry.

That type of marketing is built on short-term sales goals that do little to grow and sustain readership, and it’s a trick that’s been done to death in other industries, to diminishing returns.

If you want an example of how this works outside of comics – just look at the music industry, where they’ve nearly re-issued, re-mastered, and re-packaged themselves into an early grave.

Box sets, deluxe sets, double-packs, multi-packs, and premium prices for premium packaging. In an age where virtually everything is available digitally and for less money, the record companies chose to milk their nostalgia-starved customer base for every last penny, and look where it’s gotten them.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania is only going to line their pockets for so long, and there are only so many “unreleased” Hendrix albums that are going to bring people in the door of the precious few record stores that are left standing in the wake of years of short-term thinking.

But that’s the music industry.

We can do better than that.

If we seriously want a better comics industry, the number one priority of every single person in this room should be the sustainability of this medium and the vitality of the marketplace.

Constantly re-launching, re-numbering, and re-booting series after series, staging contrived events designed to appeal to a demographic destined only to a slow march toward attrition, and pretending that endless waves of nostalgia for old movies, old toys, old cartoons, and old video games somehow equals ideas or innovation will not make us stronger.

Nostalgia has its place, and I’ll admit, there can be a certain sepia-toned appeal to fondly looking back on our younger, more innocent days, but if we want this industry to outlive us, we have to start looking at things like grown ups.

Superheroes are great.

I grew up reading superhero comics.

But over the years, when the writers and artists and editors and publishers I looked up to talked about advancing the medium, about producing more challenging content, and creating comics that appealed to adults, never once did I mistake what they were saying to be, “We need to find a way for superhero comics to appeal to more adults.”

This is the comic book industry, not the superhero industry, and if we want to stick around for the long haul, we need to recognize that and capitalize on that, because as much as I fond as I am of the superhero comics I read when I was younger, the full scope of what comics are and what comics can be is what will ultimately bring the world into your stores.

Right now, the fastest growing demographic for Image Comics, and I’m willing to speculate, for the entire industry, is women.

For years, I’ve listened to people talk about bringing more women into the marketplace.

Over the last few years, with your help, we’ve been doing exactly that.

You’ve seen the audience that’s building up around SAGA. You’ve seen how female readers respond to books like SEX CRIMINALS, LAZARUS, VELVET, PRETTY DEADLY, ROCKET GIRL, and RAT QUEENS, and one of our best-received announcements at Image Expo was Kelly Sue DeConnick’s new series BITCH PLANET.

We’re not the first to put out material that appealed to women – there’s a whole roomful of incredible people I wouldn’t be able to look in the eye if I made that kind of ludicrous claim – but I think we are among a select group in this industry who realize that there’s more to gain from broadening our horizons than by remaining staunchly beholden to the shrinking fan base that is supposedly excited about sequels to decrepit old crossovers like SECRET WARS II.

It is comics like SAGA that get new readers in your door.

I know this, because I have met SAGA readers.

They read SAGA, they read RACHEL RISING, they read Julia Wertz, they read FABLES, they read Nicole Georges and Kate Beaton, they read Hope Larson, Jeffrey Brown, and LOVE & ROCKETS…

They read all of that and more, but even better still:

They are hungry for more.

There is a vast and growing readership out there that is excited about discovering comic books, but as long as we continue to present comics to the world in the Biff Bang Pow! context of Marvel and DC, with shop windows full of pictures of Spider-Man and Superman, we will fail to reach it.

The biggest problem with comic books is that even now, even after all the amazing progress we’ve made as an industry over the last 20 years, the vast majority of people have no idea whatsoever about how much the comics medium has to offer.

As an industry, we still cling to the shortsighted and mistaken notion that presenting ourselves to the world as Marvel and DC, as superhero movies, is the key to reaching a wider audience, and it’s just not.

People know what Spider-Man is. People know what Superman is. They know Batman. They know the X-Men.

And you know what? They’ve already made their mind up about that stuff, and that’s why the success of those movies has yet to translate into an avalanche of readers into our industry.

We have trained the world to think of comics as “Marvel and DC superheroes.”

And the world has stayed away.

We need to fix that.

If we want to reach out to new readers, to different readers, we need to look at what we’re pitching them.

More than that, we need to look at who our customer base is – not just who is coming into the stores, but who ISN’T – and ask what we can do to make our marketplace more appealing to them.

ANYONE who isn’t currently buying comics should be our target audience.

THAT is who we want coming into comic book stores, and it is new creativity that is going to pave their way to your door.

We talk about being obsessed with expanding our audience, but if publishing lesser versions of people’s favorite cartoons, toys, and TV shows is the best we can do, then we are doomed to failure.

Simply reframing work from other media as comic books is the absolute worst representation of comics.

We can invite readers to innovate with us, but repurposing someone else’s ideas as comic books isn’t innovation – at best, it’s imitation, and we are all so much better than that.

New creativity that is native to comics is what makes this industry stronger. It shows what comics do, what comics can BE.

Look at THE WALKING DEAD.

I know, I know – it’s a hit television show.

But before that – long before that – it was a hit comic book.

THE WALKING DEAD came out of nowhere one October, and it increased in sales month over month, year after year, for a full five years before there was a television show.

THE WALKING DEAD is one of the most successful franchises in the history of comics – we have sold millions of units of comic books, trade paperbacks, toys, statues, apparel, and hardcovers – and it is completely homegrown.

It started right here, in the Direct Market, with new creativity – with your support of new creativity.

THE WALKING DEAD is a towering achievement, an incredible success.

And YOU helped make that happen.

YOU helped build that success.

Robert Kirkman, Image Comics, you – we did that TOGETHER.

And we’re working together to build the next WALKING DEAD as we speak.

If you look at THE WALKING DEAD’s sales pre-television show, back in the days when sales were just great, as opposed to phenomenal, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ SAGA is just kicking the shit of those numbers.

The trade paperbacks, the comics – SAGA is a massive success.

And I will say it once again: It all started with new creativity and your support of new creativity.

Both of those books – THE WALKING DEAD and SAGA – have brought a lot of new readers into your stores.

It is not a coincidence that both of those books are published by Image.

And we publish a lot more books that can help you expand this market.

New creativity is the future of this industry, not the latest SPIDER-MAN #1.

People come to comic book stores looking for original content, because it’s what we do best, not for comic book versions of things that are done better in other mediums.

If we seriously want to expand the marketplace and appeal to new readers, different readers, we can only do that by developing new things that only exist in our market.

While the rest of the entertainment industry lays back in the cut and churns out sequel after remake after reboot after sequel, we need to be on the frontline with the biggest, boldest, and best of the new ideas that will keep this industry healthy and strong for years to come.

Let the rest of the world come to US – let them make movies and TV shows and toys and cartoons based on what WE do.

Their dearth of ideas and their continued fascination with our unbridled creativity will only make us stronger.

THE WALKING DEAD is proof of this.

Like I said, THE WALKING DEAD comic book was selling great before it was a television show.

Now it sells even better.

And that’s because the show made people aware of the comic – and those people came to your stores to get that comic.

Because they want the real thing.

TRANSFORMERS comics will never be the real thing.

GI JOE comics will never be the real thing.

STAR WARS comics will never be the real thing.

Those comics are for fans that love the real thing so much, they want more – but there’s the important thing to understand:

They don’t want more comics – they just want more of the thing they love.

Those comics are accessories to an existing interest, an add-on, an upsell, easy surplus for the parent products – icing on the cake.

Comics are so much more than that, and this industry has existed as long as it has because of the ingenuity of men and women all over the world who yearn to share the fruits of their imaginations, not simply find new ways to prolong the life of existing IPs.

So much of the comics experience is about sharing.

We share our thoughts and feelings about comics with each other; we share the comics we love with our friends; writers and artists share the worlds they’ve created with their readers.

Something that sets the Direct Market apart from the rest of the retail world is the amazing communal experience you can only find in comic book stores.

That communal spirit has been part of the Direct Market’s success since its very inception, and now is the time to foster that spirit so that it continues to grow.

Do more signings. Plan more sales. Throw parties. Invite writers and artists to speak at your store, or in your community, as an adjunct to regular signings.

A lot of stores are hosting book clubs – we need more of that, focused on as many subjects as your customers can think of.

Host workshops and help foster new creativity yourselves, so that you’re directly involved in cultivating the next generation of comic book creators.

Be more inclusive – one of the best sales tools at your disposal is your ability to build a community around your store. Make your store a destination for everyone – men, women, and children of every background.

I’ve been to a lot of your stores, and some of you are doing amazing work already, but there is always more that can be done.

Ask yourself what you could do better, and what you could do to reach that one person you’re not bringing into the store.

If there are people in your community who aren’t comfortable going into comic book stores, ask them why. Ask what you could be doing that you’re not.

Comic book stores are one of our industry’s most valuable resources, and we should all be doing everything we can to make sure that continues to be the case for years into the future.

We don’t want people buying their comics in Targets or Wal-Marts, or as a giveaway with a toy. We want people to come right here to the very heart of our business.

We want them to come to you.

15 Comments on ComicsPRO: Image’s Eric Stephenson addresses retailers “I want to make your stores stronger”, last added: 3/1/2014
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13. RIP: Diamond Digital

diamond-digital.jpgIt’s hard to remember those timid days when digital comics were a threat to civilization as we know it and not a solid revenue stream, but one of the artifacts of that era, Diamond Digital, has been laid to rest. This was a program whereby retailers, instead of licking ‘em could join ‘em by setting up their own digital storefronts via Diamond. It never really worked out, for various reasons including a long, protracted roll-out, and at one point Brian Hibbs reported he had made a grand total, net, of $22.89 in a year from the program.

Brigid Alverson has a thorough post mortem that can’t really be improved upon, so I’ll just send you there:

There are a lot of reasons why Diamond Digital didn’t work, but I think chief among them is the initial concept was flawed. The idea wasn’t to provide readers with a simple, easy-to-use digital comics service; it was to protect brick-and-mortar retailers by providing them with a digital comics service that wouldn’t compete with them. That drive to avoid competition resulted in a clunky and almost-unusable platform. Meanwhile, comiXology took a different tack and expanded the comics market, bringing in new readers — who then found their way to comics shops and bought print comics.


So yeah, the protectionist era has been laid to rest. I think the idea itself was well intentioned, but in practice it never took hold.

It’s also a moment to reflect on the digital storefronts that have come and gone—graphic.ly and Panelfly—or never even come—remember Longbox? Iverse and Dark Horse are still in there kicking, and Sequential is a more recent and selective app. (Of course there are also iBooks and Kindle.) While you must give Comixology major props for staying the course that they believed in all along, now that this channel is so well established, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other specialized vendors set up. But to be successful you need to believe in what you’re selling, not fear it.

5 Comments on RIP: Diamond Digital, last added: 2/28/2014
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14. Good news: Four new comics shops and a reopening

201304020321 Good news: Four new comics shops and a reopening
Diamond reports that for the last two years, their number of accounts has gone up by 1% each year—a tiny amount, to be sure, but at least it isn’t falling. Here’s some recent stories about NEW stores opening up, and one old one reopening—proof that indie bookstores and comics are not domed quite yet.

¶ Rocket Comics: In Menifee, CA, Life-long residents to open comic shop pictured above.

Cousins Jesse Heinrichs, 22, and Zach Heinrichs, 25, plan to open the first comic book shop in Menifee’s known history.

The grand opening for their shop, Rocket Comics, is planned for 10 a.m. April 6 at 27140 Shadel Road and includes food, drinks, a raffle and a free package of buttons for the first 20 customers.

The shop, which specializes in comic books but also sells games, toys and other collectibles, is the realization of a dream for the two cousins — who proudly embrace the label “comic nerds.”


The two hope the store will be an after school destination for kids, which seems to be a growing trend for shops located near schools.

¶ Vintage Villains: In Danville, IL another pair has opened a shop:

Partners Chris Perrault, a laid-off FreightCar employee, and Troy Walton have opened the shop, which opened today in the former Bruce Huff Photography business next to Hoarder’s Paradise, at 103 N. Vermilion St. [snip]

Perrault said the downtown pedestrian traffic also played a part in their decision to locate downtown.

During the last few months, they have been painting, removing a wall and renovating the space to fit their needs.

The shop has sections of T-shirts, reproduction movie posters, buttons, records and music CDs, horror/sci-fi/anime, VHS movies and DVDs, video games and video game systems — such as Atari and Nintendo, non-sports cards, action figures from movies and television shows and toys from the 1980s and 1990s.


The store sounds fine but we’re curious about the spot called Hoarder’s Paradise!

¶ Heroes For Sale: Liverpool, UK Yet another pair of determined fans opening a shop:

It hosts a vast collection of items such as classic comic books, action figures from Star Wars, Iron Man, Transformers, Ghostbusters and other memorabilia that is a journey of nostalgia through the sub-culture of TV, cinema and cartoon series heroes across the second half of the 20th Century.

The shop is run by Pierce King and David Ross, who are themselves collectors and enthusiasts and have collected most of the shop’s content over the past two decades.

¶ Hypno-Tronic Comics, St. George, Staten Island, NY this one is run by a couple

From tiny robots, laser beams, space invaders and bad monster costumes, a new comic shop in St. George is stocking up on vintage science-fiction and horror movie merchandise. Aside from the usual stock of superhero comics, Hypno-Tronic Comics will sell everything from Elvira dolls to Star Trek laser-disks.

“We’re different,” said co-owner Joy Ghigliotti. “We try to cater to sci-fi, horror movies, television, pop culture stuff, as well as the comics.” The store already has a large collection of memorabilia culled from garage sales, conventions and the personal collections of owners Ghigliotti and Edmund Varuolo.

¶ Finally, in Lynchburg, VA, Collector’s Lair has reopened in a new space following a fire:

The blaze, which burned for days, remains under investigation, Lynchburg Fire Marshal Thomas Mack said. About a month after the fire, Lair reopened his shop less than a mile away, next door to Chestnut Hill Hardware and near Fort Avenue’s intersection with Wards Road. He has operated a hobby shop for more than 20 years and knew he had to reopen. “That was almost immediate,” Lair said. “We were successful at what we were doing.” For 10 years, Lair sold collectibles from his former location on Fort Avenue, previously the Continental Hobby Shop. Lair opened his store in the 1980s after his childhood hangout, The Treasure Chest, closed. The faded sign from Lair’s first store is displayed in the front window of his new location.


Glad to hear this store was able to reopen following what sounds like a pretty bad fire.

How much these openings have been helped by Diamond’s incentives to help new stores open is unknown, but it’s definitely a welcome trend.

Has a comics shop opened near you? Tell the Beat!

15 Comments on Good news: Four new comics shops and a reopening, last added: 4/15/2013
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15. On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, Valiant

ComiXology’s Chip Mosher of Marketing and PR moderated a panel with Jeremy Atkins of Dark Horse, Dirk Wood of IDW, Mel Caylo of Archaia, and addition Hunter Gorinson of Valiant Comics with the goal of sharing tips and pro experience with indie creators and future marketers on Friday, March 29th at WonderCon. The result was quite an entertaining panel featuring their professional blunders and secret discoveries about he ins and outs of comics promotion.

mbrittany gorinson mosher 300x160 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, ValiantMosher started out by asking for the embarrassing stories each had accrued in their work experience, “professional blunders” that contained teachable moments. Atkins admitted to the cringeworthy common mishap of hitting “reply all” on an email and copying a person specifically to be excluded from a conversation, with plenty of sympathetic groans from the audience. Mosher’s own tale of woe was equally relatable, reading an e-mail from Emerald City Con and then forgetting to reply afterward, thereby losing booth space for BOOM that year. Wood was more circumspect about his failures, noting that “25% of marketing is what I would call blunders” that can lead either to success or to a “thud”, and that he finds it impossible to tell which will happen in some circumstances. Persistence, he advised, is the key to forge ahead despite an unpredictable market.

Caylo dredged up his own worst moments with a story of “drunk tweeting” from the wrong account, declaring his love for someone, a tweet that remained up on a company account overnight whereas Gorinson stuck to the ever-present bugaboo of typos in press releases regardless of how many times the releases are checked before sending them out. Wood’s observation that some blunders can have positive results prompted the panel to consider whether they had similar lucky moments. Wood, particularly, “stumbled into successes” by having random, unlikely ideas for promotion like sending Godzilla costumed promo agents to “smash” stores, something that met with great success. The panel quickly turned interactive, fielding questions from the floor, and the first question, probably also the first on everyone’s mind, was how to run PR and marketing strategies on a shoe-string budget.

mbrittany caylo gorinson 300x142 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, ValiantMosher wittily commented, “This guy thinks that we have budgets” to his fellow panellists before Caylo took up the question with what became perhaps the strongest message of the panel event: “It’s all about relationships”. He suggested that those seeking press for comics go to shows, have e-mail conversations that are “not always pitching”, so that it’s easier when you do want to ask a favor to bring it up. He also added that “offer giveaways” on sites that increase “cross-promotion” are a very smart move. Atkins, who was particularly earnest and animated throughout the panel suggested that Twitter is a major player in promotion for building and continuing to cultivate professional relationships, including the retail industry in your list of contacts. Wood spoke to the indie creator’s situation trying to get books distributed. “Nothing speaks louder than a consignment situation”, he said, and pointed out that Top Shelf started through delivering consignment issues to comic shops, “giving books” to shops and allowing them to sell them rather than seeking solicitation. This involves “relentless beating of the pavement” since there is “no replacing grassroots”.

Atkins used this idea to springboard into a gambling metaphor: “In gambling and in life, you only win when you can afford to lose”. You shouldn’t expect return immediately, he warned, but trying different approaches and continuing to do so as long as possible is key. Mosher had strong feelings on the subject, reflecting on the example of a student protester who brough the New York Stock Exchange to a standstill by busking for dollar bills all day, then throwing a hundred bills onto the exchange floor. It was the perfect example, for Mosher, of “getting attention at low cost” and using the least resources to garner the “biggest impact”.

mbrittany atkins wood 1 300x159 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, ValiantGorinson focused on knowing your material and audience to get attention. Knowing the pitch well, and the many angles from which it might be interpreted, breaking out of narrow genre definitions, for instance, may win the day. He recommended top comics news sites as vehicles for spreading the word, as well as working “with anyone and everyone”, including small blog sites. Mosher’s experience at BOOM confirmed this premise. Starting out publishing only 4 to 7 books a month, he scoured blogs, put people in press lists, and sent them PDF review copies in an era before most comics companies were using PDFs in this way, and thereby grew a press list of 400 contacts.

Wood added that looking at comparable publishers and types of titles to the comic you are trying to circulate is a good starting point, looking to see how and where they are doing their marketing and focus your attack in that way. A common pitfall the panellists all agreed on is when creators send a pitch to a company for a comic series that’s a 12 issue proposal or longer. Companies aren’t willing to take the risk, they advised, and a 3-4 issue format is much more appealing at the outset of a project.

A follow up question from the audience regarded strategies to capitalize on the rash of superhero movies and growing movie fans who might never have read a comic. Several panellists felt that there’s no one single approach to bring film fans into comics, but a more surefire method is to “start them young”, reaching young readers with comics visual literacy. Mosher agreed, stating that there are more kids comics today than in the past decade, and comics continue to have unique qualities of storytelling that continue to appeal as a child grows up reading them. Gorinson added that Free Comic Book Day is an excellent opportunity to “get into as many shops as possible” and reach new, young readers. Mosher and Caylo both returned to the subject of cross promotion between films, tv, and comics, like the inclusion of ashcan comics in dvd box sets to show fans what comics alternatives are available for their favorite products.

mbrittany small press alley 300x180 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, ValiantA direct marketing question from the floor focused on the similarities or differences between selling comics and other products, like household items. Atkins felt there was very little difference at all, except that it’s more possible in comics to “know who that person is” you are targeting since “They are me, or some version of me”, as a comics fan. He continued with some other salient advice, such as “You have to believe in what you’re selling” and believe that you are “one of the best advocates for it”. Gorinson felt that marketing comics is different from marketing other consumer products because he often feels an “obligation” to live up to the quality of the work he’s promoting in his own efforts.

Gorinson and Atkins also suggested doing some research into major news sites to find out who on staff might be a comics fan, “finding” that contact, or locating dedicated geek blogging attached to news sites. Atkins and Mosher commented that using social media makes reaching out to news writers more and more direct. Mosher admitted that not everyone may have the desire or “skill set” to promote their comics properly despite attempts, and in that case, he advised, you should find a friend who thrives on that kind of work and collaborate on promotion.

The final big topic addressed by the panel, and one which inspired some lively reactions from the speakers, was the use of transmedia and multiple media formats to draw attention to comics. Caylo said that it’s all about “synergy” between comics, films, and related video games, based on his work at Archaia. Atkins clarified, however, that adding transmedia content to promote comics, such as an app or video game should still be “meaningful to the overall story.

mbrittany artist alley 300x256 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, ValiantI posed a last question to the panel before it came to a close, wondering what the biggest pros and cons are to using social media as a promotional tool. Gorinson replied that you have to be “clever” in different ways to use social media properly for this purpose, while Mosher commented simply, but with some emotion, “Trolls!” as his biggest con. Caylo was the most personally engaged by the question and gave the following run down: social media’s benefits are “accessibility” and the quickness and “ease” of getting the word out about your product, especially when doing it for free. The “dangers”, however, are that “You are open to trolls and people who want to bait you”. “Ignore them”, he recommended, since once they “engage” you, they’ve “got you”. Block them if necessary, and learn to take “the bad with the good” when it comes to social media.

The panel was surprisingly lively, with all the panellists more than willing to share from their personal struggles to find the golden balance when it comes to marketing with limited budgets, and each expressed an obvious commitment to the survival and growth of worthy comics through good strategies and trying innovative methods to see what works for each book and each particular situation. Building personal relationships, watching out for the wrong kind of blunders, and learning from them when they occur, were paramount for these indie publishing marketers.

 

Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.

 

 

 

11 Comments on On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, Indie Marketing Tips from ComiXology, Dark Horse, IDW, Archaia, Valiant, last added: 4/28/2013
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16. INTERVIEW: 2000AD’s Mike Molcher on Spreading The Word of Tharg

Mike Molcher is the PR Co-ordinator for Rebellion, meaning he is the man directly responsible for promoting their comics, 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine. If you’ve noticed over the last few months that more people are talking about 2000AD, be it the recent ‘Trifecta’ storyline, or the ‘gay Judge Dredd’ teaser which got picked up everywhere – that’s Mike Molcher’s work. He’s also an interviewer and writer himself, who has interviewed many of the key figures who have worked at 2000AD over the years, including Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Dave Gibbons and Carlos Ezquerra. 

But how do you go about promoting a company like 2000AD, which releases a new anthology EVERY WEEK? I spoke to Mike about his work with the company, to see how exactly he goes about promoting the series. And what is comic book marketing, anyway? How does it work? Is this interview secretly all part of his marketing plan?

By reading this, have we become trapped in Mike Molcher’s sinister plans for 2000AD to take over the world? Oh dear…

mikem4 INTERVIEW: 2000ADs Mike Molcher on Spreading The Word of Tharg

Steve: I’ll start with a self-sabotaging question: since 2005 you’ve been involved with interviewing some of the most influential 2000 AD creators – from Alan Moore to Carlos Ezquerra. What makes for a good interview?

Mike: Oof, tough start! I can’t say mine are particular exemplars of good practice so I can only speak about the interviews I enjoy reading – they tend to be the ones that actually stray away from what’s on the comic book page to what’s going on in the mind of the creator, what motivates them, what inspires them, what grinds their gears. By uncovering these things the interviewer can begin to form a picture of the roots of that person’s creativity. Talent and ability never exist in isolation, they have always come from somewhere (usually thanks to a lot of hard work) and it’s the people of comics that I find most fascinating. I like to think my interviews try and achieve that (he said, nervously).

Steve: Before you took on your current role, you worked as a features writer for 2000 AD. How did you first come to get involved with the company in this respect?

Mike: I think it was Matt Badham who first mentioned to me that 2000 AD was looking for creator interviews and features. At the time I was a local newspaper reporter in the north of England but had started up my own self-published magazine, The End is Nigh, which took a Fortean Times-style look at end-of-the-world theories. I’d interviewed Alan Moore about the apocalyptic aspects of his work and his ideas on the approaching human singularity, so I did a retrospective on him for the Judge Dredd Megazine. That opened the door to interviews and I’ve been doing them ever since. Fortunately it meant that when I applied for the job they already knew me and knew that I was a big 2000 AD fan.

Steve: Obviously, your goal as a features writer is to promote and flesh out the company you’re writing for at the time. Do you think there’s a natural step between journalism and PR? How do you alternate between the two?

Mike: I don’t know what it’s like in the States, but you’ll find many of the big names in PR in Britain started out as journalists in some respect. Personally, I’d say that firsthand experience of what goes on inside the head of a journalist and what makes a good story is invaluable when you’re trying to reach out to reporters and reviewers. I continue to write creator interviews in my spare time for the Judge Dredd Megazine and Comic Heroes, so personally I think one compliments the other, because it keeps me abreast of what’s going on in the industry and how we can use that to our advantage at work.

Steve: Only a short while ago you moved to become Rebellion’s PR Co-ordinator. What sort of work does this involve on a day-to-day basis?

Mike: Answering a LOT of emails, mostly. 2000 AD represents just part of my work so I spend a lot of time writing press releases for new titles and announcements, keeping the social media side of things flowing, running blog tours for our three novel imprints, keeping track of the development of the various games Rebellion are working on, plus trying to work out new opportunities to promote our products. Fortunately we’ve recently taken on a marketing coordinator, Robbie Cooke, whose focus is more on the games side of things so he’s been a massive help with that.

 mikem1 INTERVIEW: 2000ADs Mike Molcher on Spreading The Word of Tharg

Steve: Rebellion don’t just publish 2000 AD/Judge Dredd, but also handle novels and computer games. How do you structure your time between the three?

Mike: With a rather heavily annotated diary, a lot of scheduling, and an increasingly wrinkled brow. Working across three different industries can be pretty mad at times and making sure I give equal time to every new title and product can be damn hard work. Ultimately I have to judge whether something needs a slight PR nudge to sell or a heavy marketing shove out the door…

Steve: The Dredd movie came out last year, giving you a unique opportunity for promotion on a wider field. How did the movie affect the way you promoted the comics?

Mike: I very quickly learned that ANY mention of movies gets people really excited – our most shared image on Facebook was one I did publicizing the fact that DREDD was number one in the DVD and Blu-Ray charts over here and even the slightest mention of the movie would get a huge response. We’re constantly asked whether there are movies coming for our other characters, so it seems the magic of film hasn’t exactly diminished in the digital age!

We obviously went heavy on the promotion of Judge Dredd to tie in to the movie and that’s really paid off – the collected ‘Case Files’ have been flying off the shelves on both sides of the Atlantic – but I have tried to make sure that when someone discovers 2000 AD for the first time they quickly see that it’s not all about Dredd, as loveable as he is. We have a huge and constantly growing back catalogue of some of the greatest characters in comics, from Halo Jones to Nemesis the Warlock and more recent things like Shakara, Low Life and Brass Sun.

Steve: Were there any promotional campaigns you were surprised to see get less attention than others? Do you find, when promoting a comic to a film audience, there was a difference in reaction than when you promote more directly to comic fans?

Mike: Nikolai Dante ended last year after 14 years. And when I say ended, writer Robbie Morrison and artist Simon Fraser brought the Russian rogue’s story to a close. In effect, we killed off one of our most popular characters. And he ain’t coming back. For a comic book to do something as bold as that, I thought, deserved more attention – alas, no-one really picked up on the announcement. It may be that he never had the right profile outside of 2000 AD, but by the time I came on board it was a bit late to change the situation.

I don’t think there’s a big difference in the way you talk to the two audiences other than reminding yourself that the film audience won’t be as conversant in the language and culture of comics as someone who’s been reading them for years. The biggest question we got was “I loved the movie, where do I start reading?”. We were very fortunate that someone can see DREDD then walk into their local comic book and walk out with a comic featuring the same character they saw on screen; Karl Urban and Alex Garland nailed the character of Judge Dredd so perfectly that it was like he’d leapt off the page. So marketing to fans of the film was a case of giving them a good starting point (The Complete Case Files #4, if you’re interested, then #5 and then pick up a copy of ‘Origins’ and ‘America’) and then letting them discover it for themselves.

Steve: You’ve spearheaded several successful campaigns for 2000 AD over the last year – the ‘gay Judge Dredd’ promo picked up a lot of attention, in particular. How do you decide which comics might be suitable for a push, and which stories are going to pick up the most attention?

Mike: I talk to 2000 AD’s editor Matt Smith about what we have coming up and he’s very good at highlighting things that are noteworthy. For example, we recently had BPRD’s James Harren do his first Judge Dredd story and we’ve got a couple of big artist announcements coming in the next few months which are quite exciting. I always do a baseline social media push for each edition of 2000 AD – teasing new stories or returning series, promoting striking covers – but quite often there’s something specific to push like new or returning talent.

mikem2 INTERVIEW: 2000ADs Mike Molcher on Spreading The Word of Tharg

The ‘gay Dredd’ campaign was a particular highlight. Not every fan was pleased with my tactics there, but the wall by my desk covered in national and international media clippings and the 30% hike in sales for that particular issue (with high retention and new subscriber rates) makes me feel somewhat justified. It was the same for the return of the Dark Judges as part of the Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos storyline – we ran a great teaser campaign with CBR and the sales graphs all blipped upwards and stayed there.

Alongside the digital explosion our print edition is benefiting from the higher profile – over the past six months, the 2000 AD iPad app has not only grown our number of subscribers overall but has also bolstered the number of print subscribers. We’ve got clear data showing that promotion has played a major part in that, so I’ve been very pleased with our work over the past year.

Steve: Similarly, the Trifecta story from Al Ewing, Si Spurrier and Rob Williams got a lot of critical acclaim. Can you plan for that sort of buzz ahead of a story being released? Ahead of the issue being released, do you try to arrange for more people to get hold of review copies? How do you manage a story which you think is going to be critically acclaimed, by fans and by reviewers?

Mike: We decided very early on with Trifecta that we wouldn’t spoil the surprise, but that once it was out in the open it was all hands to the pumps – Al, Si, and Rob played along brilliantly and once it was out there we really pushed hard on the reaction from readers and from those reviewers who picked up on what was happening. The issues of Trifecta have been some of our biggest digital sellers as people hear the hype then go back and pick up the relevant issues.

Building word of mouth isn’t much use when it’s for a single weekly issue because by the time people have heard about it it’s already time for the next issue, but when you have an exciting ongoing storyline then you can really help spread the word. We do weekly press previews to bloggers and journalists; getting those all-important reviews means getting copies in the right people’s hands, something that I think we’re much better at doing now than we ever have been.

Steve: Are there any techniques which always help drive attention to a comic? Valiant’s successful relaunch, for example, seemed to have a lot to do with the way they publicised themselves ahead of the first comic release.

Mike: On a very basic level you can’t go wrong with new artwork, the return of popular characters, and intriguing teasers. Nothing’s better for getting social media buzz going than a juicy piece of art or a surprise announcement that your favourite character is coming back. The biggest attention-grabbers are when you change the game a little bit or find a niche no-one knew was there.

mikem3 INTERVIEW: 2000ADs Mike Molcher on Spreading The Word of Tharg

Steve: What do you think about the current state of American comics, in terms of marketing? Marvel and DC seem to have become a lot more ‘stunt’ orientated over the last few months. Every other day sees about fifty teaser images get released.

Mike: In an insanely competitive marketplace, it’s small wonder that the big two have to shout louder and louder about their books. I like what DC is doing with its ‘DC family’ blog and the campaigns on titles such as Journey into Mystery, Young Avengers and Spider-Man that Marvel has been running have been spot on (and I was blown away by the skill of their digital announcements at SXSW recently), while Image has completely reinvented itself over the last two years into something a lot closer to the feel and ethos of 2000 AD than I think any of us realise!

I often get asked why we promote 2000 AD the way that we do and why we don’t just let “word of mouth” do our work for us. 2000 AD has been on a hell of a run for the past decade and the word of mouth was very positive, yet we weren’t significantly building our readership. Two years of strong marketing and new distribution and we’re adding readers. It’s not rocket science.

Steve: 2000AD must be an interesting magazine to work on, because it’s a weekly anthology series. How do you focus your PR for each issue? Do you focus on creators, or characters – or the magazine as a whole, single product?

Mike: All of the above! And yes, it’s a constantly fascinating, evolving comic to work on. We have a brilliant stable of artists and writers who’ve really knocked it out of the park over the last 18 months, plus a tiny editorial team who are just as enthusiastic and passionate about 2000 AD as any reader. It can be challenging at times because many non-readers have an idea of it that’s 20 years out of date; all those great strips and creators are fantastic and amazing, but the past ten years of 2000 AD have been universally praised amongst fans as a second golden age and that’s pretty bloody exciting.

Steve: We’ve seen 2000AD building up a reputation overseas (which in this case means America) over the last year or so. How do you approach publicising the magazine abroad? Again, do you find you have to tailor the material you offer overseas readers?

Mike: It’s been a particular aim of mine to make us as much of a part of the comics mainstream in America as any other publisher and I believe we’re starting to get some traction there. I’d like to offer more previews of material to news sites, though it can be a struggle to make people understand that carrying 2000 AD news can bring in readers. We have a great relationship with sites like CBR and Comics Alliance, and some real advocates of our comics in people like Doug Wolk, Karl Keily, and Tucker Stone. We bring out one or two collections specifically for North America every month so it’s a case of publicising them as normal while bearing in mind that American and Canadian audiences may not be as au fait with the language and culture of British comics.

2000ad2 INTERVIEW: 2000ADs Mike Molcher on Spreading The Word of Tharg

Steve: Do you think digital has evened the playing field a little, now everybody has access to comics from home?

Mike: Completely. For reasons unfortunately beyond our control many comic book readers in North America can’t get hold of 2000 AD as easily as we would like, so being able to beam each ‘Prog’ directly into their hands is a massive bonus. We have a reputation as a British comics powerhouse, so we just have to make sure people are intrigued enough to give 2000 AD a go.

Steve: What would you say is the key to working PR in the comics industry, in the current climate?

Mike: Good material to work with, constant attention to social media and a thick skin (I admit mine could be somewhat thicker).

Steve: What would you like to see more of from comic companies in 2013, in terms of PR, co-ordination, and marketing?

Mike: A bit more innovation, but then that’s easy for me to say and very hard to suggest ways in which you could do it. While marketing is important, it should never drive creative choices but I would like to see marketing that pointedly pushes out into other demographics and stresses aspects of comics beyond the obvious – the industry has a lot of work to do to convince people it’s not all spandex and T&A for teenage and not-so-teenage boys. But it must always be about working with the creative teams, who are the ones delivering the material in the first place.

Many thanks to Mike for his time. Big interview! Repay him by following him on Twitter. If you’d rather see a Tharg-approved twitter feed, however, then you can follow 2000AD too. And if that still isn’t enough Tharg endorsement, head over to 2000AD online.

4 Comments on INTERVIEW: 2000AD’s Mike Molcher on Spreading The Word of Tharg, last added: 3/20/2013
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17. 4.6 million comics ordered for Free Comic Book Day

201303061324 4.6 million comics ordered for Free Comic Book Day
More free comics are being given away than ever before! Diamond has announced that 4.6 million free comics were ordered for this year’s Free Comic Book Day, to be held Saturday, May 4th. That’s up from 3,500,000 in 2012 and 2,700,000 in 2011.

A record 2000 retailers are participating this year. The timing the day after Iron Man 3′s opening is seen as propitious and the offerings include a range of popular fare from the Walking Dead to the Simpsons.

If you’re looking for where to bag your swag, The FCBD site includes a new comics shop locator to find participating retailers.

It’s worth remembers that FCBD, which practically qualifies as a holiday, was largely spearheaded by retailer Joe Field over a decade ago, when comics were at a low ebb. Although some wonder if it is still necessary, the press storm, social media buzz and personal excitement would sem to indicate that it’s still a valuable marketing tool.

5 Comments on 4.6 million comics ordered for Free Comic Book Day, last added: 3/7/2013
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18. ComicsPRO announced Industry Appreciation Award nominees

TweetRetailing advocacy group ComicsPRO has announced their annual Industry Appreciation Award nominees which salute “those who have been simply the best at what they do, making the comic-book direct market more successful for all of us.” Awards are presented in two categories: to living industry figures and those who have passed away. And the nominees [...]

1 Comments on ComicsPRO announced Industry Appreciation Award nominees, last added: 1/25/2013
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19. Must Read: David Petersen on settting up at a show

Mouse Guard artist David Petersen has a very thorough post on a topic that we haven't seen explored too much, despite its ubiquity: how to exhibit at comics shows if you are a creator. The whole post is full of very solid advice, from where to get an affordable retractable banner to how to get going. Just some common sense real world advice. Two excerpts on vital matters:

3 Comments on Must Read: David Petersen on settting up at a show, last added: 2/15/2013
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20. Dallas Retailer Leads Way in Active Boycott of Orson Scott Card’s Superman Comic

TweetThere’s been controvery over the past few days following DC’s decision to hire Orson Scott Card, a pioneer in contemporary homophobia, as one of the writers on a new digital-first Superman anthology series. And although the internet has been going back and forth on the subject for the past few days, the first active step [...]

16 Comments on Dallas Retailer Leads Way in Active Boycott of Orson Scott Card’s Superman Comic, last added: 2/13/2013
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21. Green Brain Comics to reopen today after SUV crash

On Sunday, our pals at Green Brain Comics in Dearborn were shocked upon awakening to find a mini-van had crashed into their store. Although it looked dramatic, and took out an 8-foot long shelf of kids comics —and a bathroom, setting off a flood— the shop was in good enough shape to reopen today.

4 Comments on Green Brain Comics to reopen today after SUV crash, last added: 2/20/2013
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22. Must read: Jesse Post’s Kids’ Comics Pep Talk

Speaking of ComicsPRO, here’s a link I found in the coverage: a slideshow put together by Papercutz marketing director Jesse post on the power and potential of kids’ comics. The slideshow is embedded above but he does a walk-through on his blog and although Papercutz-centric material is there, it’s really big on stats and charts and studies. For instance:

Children’s publishing is astonishingly digital-proof. The commonly accepted average digital/print split for adult trade publishing is 50/50, and leaning more towards digital every day. In children’s trade publishing, it’s 10/90! I’ve seen major best-selling children’s books move 1% of their print sales in digital. A Papercutz book that achieves 3% of its print sales in digital is a significant bump.


This does back up studies that I’ve seen—but I’ve also had the proud parent of a 1-year-old girl show me a video (on his iPhone) of her using an iPad with complete facility. Although a super-race of digital-only Eloi kids is probably on its way, it won’t be here for a while—too many of today’s parents were raised on books, and until that preference cycles out completely, it won’t be gone.

But it does back up something I’ve been feeling over the last few months…there’s going to be a “third wave” of comics used for educational purposes. There’s a small, dedicated core of comics people who want this to happen, but although small in number, they are no smaller than the ones who drove other comics retailing and marketing revolutions. And this time, we have a lot of teachers and librarians on our side. It may not be an obvious step for comics, the art form, but if it comes through it could provide even more stability.

A lot is happening.
201302270159 Must read: Jesse Posts Kids Comics Pep Talk

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23. Some ComicsPRO and retailing notes

201302270145 Some ComicsPRO and retailing notes
My annual write around on the yearly meeting of the retailing organization ComicsPRO was in PW yesterday, including new president Thomas Gaul’sfirst interview. As usual, reports from the show were all about positivity and productivity and good sales news.

[Gaul] also noted the cautiously expanding economy as a factor. “Customers were at a comfort level where they didn’t feel like they could spend any money, but that’s changing. Retailers are also getting more comfortable with the idea that digital isn’t trying to destroy them. The reports that I’ve seen are that print sales are up at a higher number than the overall total of digital sales last year. It’s got retailers feeling a lot more positive.” Areas of previous anxiety—too many variant covers and erratic shipping schedules—weren’t much discussed, he said.


The ComicsPRO meeting is not open to the press, but this one seems to have been productive and chipper—the best way to follow along is a Twitter search. Newsarama has some tidbits. Matt Price posted some news from the event, including Diamond’s Chris Powell’s keynote speech which gave, I think, a nice summation of how comics retailing got us to the trending upwards place we’re at now:

All this success can be traced back to comic shops, who toughed out the rough times and sang the praises of this medium to everyone who would listen and some who didn’t want to. You sent your employees to help educate librarians and to reach out to PTA’s and school boards. You donated comics to school programs and taught kids how to draw their first comics. You sent comics to military posts around the world and dropped them off in doctor’s waiting rooms where they would find their way into the hands of young readers.  You are the reason for all that we are now enjoying, and that’s why we have to make sure that quality stores like yours are here today, tomorrow, and for years to come


Retiring president and one of the driving forces behind ComicsPRO’s founding, Joe Field, delivered some closing statements:

As a handful of you may have read in my statement in the meeting  binders, I’ve been through the hopeful formings and sad dismantlings of several retailer trade organizations… And the saddest were the ones in which I was the last “leader” of each group tasked to turn out the lights. That happened with BACR, then happened with the Northern California chapter of CBRI, then again with the Direct Line Group. [snip]

While it sure doesn’t look like anything can take our market down, really the one thing that can is our own complacency. If we’re standing still, then we’re losing ground. And I know from hearing from so many of you this week that you will not let that happen –to our own operations or to an important entity like ComicsPRO.

The beautiful thing — and something I could never say about previous retailer orgs — is that this one is going to last.


I think evident in both these statements is just how far the remaining comics retailers have come—as I’ve theorized here many times, surviving in this business isn’t a gimme, and a lot of Android’s Dungeon-type stores just haven’t been able to go on in a world where reaching out to libraries and setting up webstores and tweeting is as necessary as setting up pull lists. Luckily, the vast majority of retailers I know are passionate and dedicated and know they have to give what it takes—and I’m happy to report that they have all been telling me that sales are up across the board. When best practices really do pay off, it’s good for everyone.
[Photo of the new ComicsPRO board from their Facebook page.]

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24. Marvel’s graphic novel program examined again—and Marvel’s response

201302280306 Marvels graphic novel program examined again—and Marvels response
The somewhat uneven performance of Marvel’s graphic novel program is a frequent topic of analysis when we talk about graphic novel programs here. Both the Diamond and BookScan numbers for 2012 showed Marvel—the #1 publisher overall in the Direct Sales market—surprisingly far back in the pack where books are concerned.

Retailer Jeffrey O. Gustafson has a withering overview of what he sees as Marvel’s missteps in packaging and keeping books in print. I’ll just excerpt a tiny bit:

But most glaring, with a new Guardians of the Galaxy series premiering this week and a major movie in the works (to much positive excitement amongst Marvel fandom), the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning books of recent years on which both are based are completely out of print. For some reason there have been new printings of the irrelevant 1970s and 1980s Guardians material. This is simply irrational and schizophrenic.


Ouchie. There have long been similar complaints about the Iron Man Extremis collection by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov which featured many elements used in the rather popular films. The book comes and goes out of print—according to Amazon the nice hardcover is unavailable now—and that’s with an Iron Man movie coming out in a few months. You can get the Kindle edition though!

While Marvel rarely comments on these matters, when retailer Brian Hibbs expressed similar discontent in his 2012 BookScan analysis, Marvel’s associate publisher Ruwan Jayatilleke showed up in the comments to defend Marvel’s actions. Hibbs wrote:

…I think it is clear at this point that Marvel, at least in the Bookstore market, isn’t really that significant of a player able to drive very many hits. Yes, they’re largely dominant in the Direct Market channels, and they rule periodical comics, but their backlist strategy does not seem to be paying off with any kind of solid results — in either market.

This, to me, is nutso-crazy because Marvel is clearly a stronger brand than DC, better known, more established, and, for many “civilians,” practically synonymous with “comics” itself. Further, Marvel does rule the periodicals, and strong periodical sales really should yield strong backlist sales — it is audience tested material!

I think it is very difficult to look at Marvel’s backlist business as anything other than an abject, deeply embarrassing failure, especially when you consider that there was a film that grossed a billion-and-a-half dollars, and was not only also a critical hit, but a near perfect encapsulation of what’s awesome about comic books serving as the greatest advertisement for their comics that one could possibly imagine, and Marvel’s best-selling comic in BookScan is… “Kick Ass 2.”


And Jayatilleke responded in a series of posts:

AvX, MARVEL NOW, etc. are proof otherwise that our books sell at a “fast-paced.”
Title chronology exists for the adventurous fan. I don’t think any new reader or casual reader is starting from from materials 4-5-or 6 decades ago. They tend to read characters and or creators they like or via recc’s or word of mouth.
We are capitalizing fine off of Marvel Studios successes and other third party films. Remember digital is now a part of our planning.
Marvel has a strong backlist. Is it as robust as other publishers? Yes and no. But we are working on it.
Actually word of mouth has driven our periodical and frontlist collection sales, so I am not sure what you’re basing your opinion off of….
I’ll be fairly honest our business model works. We are a margin driven business that uses tight controls on all COGS/COS like inventory to maximize OI. We had a correction at the end of 2011 and we’ve been off to the races again since.

A lot of your “solutions” are qualitatively based and aren’t derived from any sort of historical data or business acumen. While we enjoy seeing people give us suggestions of how to improve our business, you seem more than content to grind an axe for some unknown reason and insult Marvel in the process. We outperformed our quantitative and qualitative goals for 2012 and the objectives set by the Walt Disney Company and will continue to strive to do so again, again, again, etc. So while the naysayers keep naysaying, we keep succeeding. However I will definitely look at backlist chronology since that is part of whether retailers and consumers really need that level of curation these days.

Just for you to note, we evaluate our business and the health of it by a number of different metrics. Overall retail revenue is one of them, but not the main determinant.

I would say margin (operating margin) would be a more relevant number which you are not privy to. Despite the doom ‘n gloom your article might kick up as it relates to Marvel trade retail business…I’d say from our perspective that we are really happy with our performance. Our ranking versus other publishing might be important to some folks, but it’s not how I guide our strategy in a channel or retail space–or evaluate it for that matter. While being cognizant of our competitors and other performers is great contextual knowledge to have, it does not bend what we set out to do. Being that I have worked for Scholastic (before Marvel) and Marvel and for other reason are familiar with the publishing p&ls of some of the other publishers you discuss, I’ll be quite frank…each publisher is operating at much different margins. And with that perspective, I am really happy with how Marvel is performing versus how I estimate other fellow publishers are doing, despite rankings.

There’s a lot of valuable data in your piece and as you state yourself it’s important for people to draw their own conclusions and do more research…I am quite confident in what Marvel achieved in 2012 versus other publishers, but at the end of the day…we are judged on our own performance not other players.


Asked if this was indeed the real Ruwan, he wrote:

Indeed it is I–or me–Ruwan at Marvel. I oversee the sales, marketing, and communications teams re: Publishing amongst many tasks and am responsible–along with my team and other stakeholders for the publishing p&l. Unaware on CBR and professional status titles and accounts…Jonah hates me so I don’t see that happening. Kidding! Love you, mean it Jonah! ;)

Hmm “strategy misguided”–bit of a reach as it comes to the business of creating publishing product. Selling yes–no one question your expertise as it relates to your store/s and sales patterns. But that is only one link of a very long chain of revenue chain–both upstream and downstream. Even the roughest “back of the envelope math” doesn’t support what you’re stating IMO. Sorry. Totally value your opinion, ideas, and attempts to educate and inform. Not trying to dismiss them outright. I can say from just looking at the proprietary info and other industry insider knowledge, you’re backing out an answer based on loose assumptions to support your hypothesis. There’s not even qualitative data to support what your stating.

No it’s not coming from an “objective place” bc it’s coming from YOU (not actuals as it related to Marvel, its margins, actual sales, and all channels/product formats). On top of it not being an accurate sampling amongst a channel of retailers you can extrapolate from, and you’re not being able to waterfall out revenue for a year of sales amongst different and divergent retail channels. While I respect your retailer perspective.

“Further, at a certain point, operating margin means far less than the absolute profit that can be netted out — I’d rather earn 200% ROI on 100k copies than 300% ROI on 50k copies. That’s just math.” Who said that profit or the weighted value of the actual margin means far less to me than x, y, or z metrics that we have batted about. I get “math” and we’re (Marvel) doing a great job w/ the math to hit our goals which are aggressive. As I said before we use different metrics. I shorthanded operating margin as a main indicator and I should overstated there are more main indicators, but that is all I am willing to share online or otherwise. Until you are sitting in my seat or one of one of my colleague’s chairs at any of the other publishers (you can throw the same thing back at me in terms of retail–I know)…all you’re presenting is an opinion based on nonactuals and borderline back of the envelope math. Not trying to shut down this discussion, but this is going to get protracted for no reason. You’ll have proved nothing to me by us trading who’s right and who’s wrong over a forum. And frankly I am not interested in that conversation bc it gets neither what you’re trying to advocate further to me or my teams–or vice versa. I’ll be at a fair amount of the comic shows this year. You can me chat w/ me about this offline at one of them f2f.

Cheers and thanks for the dialogue,


So there you go, Marvel has its own goals and is meeting them.

15 Comments on Marvel’s graphic novel program examined again—and Marvel’s response, last added: 3/1/2013
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25. Nice Art that you can Buy: Telegraph

motown 1 1024x1024 Nice Art that you can Buy: Telegraph

Telegraph

Above: Beast of the Sea by Bob Motown

0 Comments on Nice Art that you can Buy: Telegraph as of 3/2/2013 7:22:00 PM
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